Saturday 24 March 2018

Tony Blair's message to Labour stirs up civil war

Former PM condemned over content of memoirs

Andrew Potter

THE ferocity of Tony Blair's attack on Gordon Brown threatened to plunge Labour into a fresh civil war yesterday and send the party into the electoral wilderness.

Published on the day Labour members received their leadership ballot papers, the former prime minister's detailed and sustained criticism of Mr Brown in his memoir was greeted with dismay and astonishment by senior figures in the party. They said it risked reopening the wounds that scarred the New Labour era and could be "very, very damaging" as the party tried to move on from a general election defeat.

Figures close to Mr Brown accused Mr Blair of being "delusional" and warned that the book could unleash a course of "mutual destruction" and dominate the current leadership election.

The row threatens to intensify the rift between the two front-runners for the leadership, the brothers David and Ed Miliband, who are widely seen to represent the Blairite and Brownite wings of the party.

Mr Blair uses his memoirs to give tacit support to David Miliband's candidacy and offers a scathing criticism of Ed Balls, another candidate and a close ally of Mr Brown.

Mr Brown spent the day at his Scottish home and is yet to respond to the accusations that he effectively sought to blackmail his predecessor. One former Cabinet minister has urged Mr Brown to write his own memoir to give his version of events.

In 'A Journey', Mr Blair discloses how he always feared Mr Brown's premiership would be a "disaster" because of his successor's lack of political instinct and "emotional intelligence". He reveals dozens of rows and disagreements during which Mr Brown and his supporters sought to derail the New Labour project.

But Lord Prescott, the former deputy prime minister who often acted as a go-between between the two men, said the memoirs presented a "one-sided version" of the relationship.

He warned of the "real danger" of Labour drifting into the wilderness for years if the leadership contest descended into a civil war between Blairite and Brownite factions. "The dangers are - as we saw with the Tories [after 1997] - that if the divisions continue and there is a suggestion that one [candidate] won't follow if the other is elected, that would be very, very damaging for us," he said. "It damaged Labour for 18 years, it damaged the Tories for 13 years.

"We have a fight now between 'Is it Left, is it Right, is it New, is it Labour?' Forget all that. Let's all be Labour and get behind the new leader."

Last night, Mr Balls called for an end to the "recriminations".

"Tony Blair was Labour's most successful prime minister and Gordon Brown the most successful chancellor," he said.

"And for all the tensions, difficulties and arguments which undoubtedly happened, they achieved great things together."

Mr Balls hit back at Mr Blair's claim that he was "anti-aspiration". He said Mr Blair did not "get it".

He also dismissed the former prime minister's claim that he could have won a fourth term, adding: "Tony had become out of touch, I am afraid."

Andy Burnham, who is also running for the party leadership, said he was "saddened" that Mr Blair had chosen to publish his book at such an important time.

He said: "It really does sadden me that Tony has chosen this day to publish this book."

Ed Miliband, who is caught in the crossfire between the Blair and Brown camps, also urged Labour to "move on" from the past. In a memo to members, David Miliband said: "I respect both Tony and Gordon deeply. But their time has passed. We need to stop their achievements being sidelined and their failings holding us back."

Mr Blair was in Washington Wednesday night for a dinner at the White House, having postponed a book launch party in London. His memoirs however, dominated the West-minster agenda.(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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